Sorry for the TST Rule Quiz hiatus, Sand Trappers, but I am back and ready to test your rules knowledge. I mean you can never know the rules too well, right?
In this third installment of the Rules Quiz, we delve into some useful rulings for tournament play. My hope is that after reading this someone out there who is sitting on the fence trying to decide whether or not to start playing in their club’s tournaments will feel confident enough to go ahead and join up. The rules are there to help you, and for the most part are fairly simple if you get the basics down. For all the lesser known rules, you can carry a USGA Rule Book. The point is there is never anything bad about playing by the rules.
It’s tournament time at The Sand Trap Country Club, and Charles, David, Scott, and Zach are getting ready to tee it up. Since it is a tournament and all play must strictly adhere to the USGA Rules of golf, our foursome has invited us along to act as marshall/rules official.
To see the answers, hover your mouse over the area between the  brackets.
One: Umm, Who’s First?
All the guys show up at the first tee ready to go, but how do they decide who hits first? Charles suggests they flip a coin. Is he correct?
Answer: [Rule 10-1a says “The Side that has the honor at the first teeing ground is determined by the order of the draw. In the absence of a draw, the honor should be decided by lot.” So basically the honor will be how the names were put on the scorecard. If the scorecard was not filled out by the committee, players can tee up in as equitable an order as possible. Flipping a coin would be fine.]
Two: Some Advice Please
This is the first time Zach has played here at TST Country Club, and on the second tee he is confused on which direction the hole plays. He asks Scott to help him but Scott says he can’t since giving advice is illegal and would cost them both a stroke penalty. Is he correct?
Answer: [As Scott is correct that giving advice would be a penalty, it’s actually two strokes. (Rule 8-1) That being said this rule does not include giving advice on the rules, or as in this case indicating line of play. As long as the two players are not on the putting green Scott may point out the direction Zach needs to go. (Rule 8-2a) No penalty.]
Three: Keep Up!
On the fifth hole the group finds themselves falling behind the group in front of them. In an effort to speed up David hits his tee shot before Charles even though Charles had the honor. Scott says that he believes that is a one-stroke penalty. What’s the correct ruling?
Answer: [I’m all for playing ready golf, and nothing is worse than being behind a slow group. I guess the USGA agrees since there is no such penalty in stroke play for playing out of order. (Rule 10-2) Now in match play this is not the case. While its still not a penalty, if you hit out of order your opponent can make cancel your stroke and hit again. (Rule 10-1)]
Four: Cat Got Your Tongue?
On to the seventh, where David hits his ball toward the out-of-bounds markers on the right. In disgust he grabs another ball, tees it up, and hits again. When he gets to his first ball, he see it must have hit a tree and it lies in bounds. He is all too happy with his luck until Scott tells him that he has to play his second ball as he never declared it a provisional. David argues that of course it was a provisional a second ball from the tee is always considered a provisional. Who is correct?
Answer: [Sorry Dave, but rule 27-2a states “The player must inform his opponent in match play or his marker or a fellow-competitor in stroke play that he intends to play a provisional ball, and he must play it before he or his partner goes forward to search for the original ball. If he fails to do so and plays another ball, that ball is not a provisional ball and becomes the ball in play under penalty of stroke and distance (Rule 27-1); the original ball is lost.” So basically if you are going to play a provisional make sure to not keep it to yourself otherwise you’re just hitting three from the tee.]
Five: I Don’t Need Any Help Being a Bad Putter
We next pick up our foursome on the ninth green. Zach taps in for par and accidentally steps on Scott’s line getting his ball out of the hole. When he realizes what he’s done he akwardly attempts to jump off of it, in the process leaving a huge spike mark. What is the procedure they must follow and is this a penalty?
Answer: [ Normally fixing a spike mark in your line is against the rules (Rule 16-1c), but Decision 16-1a/13 says that in the case of a fellow competitor accidentally damaging the line of a putt, in equity a player may restore their line back to its original form. Because the damage was accidental there is no penalty.]
Six: The Hole in One that Wasn’t?
All are in good spirits and playing well as we again join our crew on the 11th tee, a short par three. Charles hits his shot toward the trees that closely border the left of the green and doesn’t see where his ball ended up. He decides to hit a provisional, tells his fellow competitors, and hits again. We fast forward seven minutes later when Charles, unable to locate his ball after searching five minutes, gives up the search and plays his provisional ball from where it came to rest. He chips up to a foot from the flag and as he goes to remove the pin he sees his original ball in the cup. He is both estatic he found his ball in the hole, and confused on what score he made since he had already declared that ball lost. What’s the ruling?
Answer: [Nice hole in one Charles! Once your ball rolled into the cup it is deemed you had holed out and completed play on that hole. Any subsequent strokes or anything else that happened on that hole are of no consequence. (Decision 1-1/3)]
Seven: The Dreaded Cart Path Mark
Hole 15 starts with David hitting his drive down the right side where it lands on the cart path, bounces twice, and ends up just in the rough. When David gets to his ball he asks Scott to watch him while he checks his ball to make sure it’s still fit for play. Upon inspection the ball has a large scrape where it hit the path. David wants to remove it from play and substitute a new ball. Can he do this?
Answer: [Sorry Dave but you’re stuck with the scraped ball. Rule 5-3 states “A ball is unfit for play if it is visibly cut, cracked, or out of shape. A ball is not unfit for play solely because mud or other materials adhere to it, its surface is scratched or scraped or its paint is damaged or discolored.” David may change balls between holes.]
Eight: To Mark or Not to Mark
Play continues and we find our foursome on #17 green. Zach is first to play and hits his putt up about two feet from the hole. His ball ends up on the same line as Scott’s and Scott asks him to mark his ball one putter length to his right. What is the correct procedure for doing this?
Answer: [I see it all the time, the person marking their ball sets their putter next to their ball sets the maker down behind their putter and then picks up their ball. While this is no longer a penalty (Decision 20-1/16), the traditional procedure in this instance is to place your marker directly behind the ball and then lift your ball. From there you then measure one putter length from the marker then move the marker, just make sure to put the marker back in the right place when your fellow competitor is finished.]
Nine: That’s My Ball, I Think
The guys make their way to hole #18 and Scott hits his ball into the deep rough on the right side of the green. Upon arriving at the spot where he believes his ball landed he finds two balls that are the same type and number as his ball. He then identifies his ball because it had a cart path mark on it and the other ball doesn’t. Is this allowed?
Answer: [A player my identify his ball by brand, number, or as in this case, condition. Decision 12-1/2 states, “In the area in which his ball presumably came to rest, a player finds a ball of the same brand, model, and identification number as the ball he is playing. The player assumes it is his ball, even though it does not carry an identification mark as suggested in Rule 12-2, and plays it. Should the player be considered to have played a wrong ball? No, unless (1) there is clear evidence that, because of the ball’s condition, it is not the player’s ball or (2) subsequently it is established that another ball of the same brand, model and identification number was lying in the area at the time the player played and either ball, from a condition standpoint, could be the player’s ball.
But to be completely sure always, always, always mark your golf ball with an identification mark.]
Ten: You’re Out of Here, Buddy!
Because of their stellar play, Charles and David find themselves tied for first place at the end of the tournament. Here at TST Country Club we always break any ties with a sudden death playoff. On the fairway of the second playoff hole David realizes he is playing the wrong ball and has been since his second shot on the previous hole. The penalty for breach of rule 15-3 is disqualification. David knows the rules but is unsure if it means disqualification from the playoff or from the entire tournament. What is the ruling?
Answer: [Relax David, while you have just lost the playoff, you still get second place. Decision 3/1 says that when a player incurs a penalty of disqualification during a playoff it applies to the playoff only, not the entire competition.]
Always feel free to read the Rules of Golf on your own. Until next time, play well and play by the rules.